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Date Line 16 June 2008

Maraba, Rwanda.

This little nation whose genocide shook the world 14 years ago is doing something very right--getting their women to work growing coffee, managing companies, starting businesses. Most are widows of the genocide. What they have going for them is energy, eagerness to work, and creativity. The village cooperatives do the rest. The women have stable incomes upon which their families can rely.

Some of the world's finest coffee comes from Southern Rwanda. This would be merely anecdotal except that nationwide, the same thing is happening in agribusiness, tourism and politics. The Rwandan legislature is comprised of 48% women, the highest percentage of any nation on earth. 36% of Kagame's cabinet is women. One of the largest coffee producers is run by Epiphanie Muckashyaka, a woman.

In a poor country where there are two men for every three women, the latter are virtually forced to shoulder more load. In Rwanda, they shoulder it well. Women, in Rwanda at least, seem to have greater self control in the face of adversity. As heads of household, they seem to survive better than men in that role.

Furthermore, women in Rwanda are much better credit risks according to officials at Vision Finance. This micro-finance company sees similar patterns elsewhere in the world.

The government has been responsive. In 1999 it passed legislation allowing women to inherit property. And there was a lot to inherit, at least by Rwandan standards.

There is a lesson for all nations here. Women are at least as capable as men in business, and business goes with infrastructure, which establishes the basic foundation necessary before a democracy can exist--according to history. So countries that have the least gender bias are the countries that move ahead most rapidly.


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